- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

MADISON, Miss. (AP) - Even on a cool, blustery day in March, you can buy fresh veggies that herald spring at Sarah Cote’s Fresh Magnolia Market in Gluckstadt.

This week, she’s selling famous Vardaman-grown sweet potatoes, tomatoes free of pesticides and chemicals, crisp English cucumbers, and fresh eggs and milk from a local dairy.

“We source it from farmers all over Mississippi,” Cote says of what she sells. “We don’t use any distributors.”

Her customers, Cote says, want to know where their produce and fresh foods are coming from, how long they’ve traveled, and how many hands have touched them.

“People are more and more going to fresh and they’re researching what they’re putting into their bodies,” she said.

Those are among reasons residents of Madison County are clamoring for a city-sponsored farmers market, Cote and others say.

The city of Madison is putting out a call for vendors interested in becoming a ready source for locally grown fresh foods in its first farmers market set to open this summer. Cote is among those stepping forward to sell their wares.

“Without dependable, quality vendors, we cannot have a successful market,” said Robin McCrory, director of business and downtown development for Madison.

Madison wants to open a weekly market by the Red Caboose on Main Street to provide a place for growers to sell their goods and residents to pick up fresh, tasty, nutritious fruits and vegetables.

It would join other successful farmers markets around the area.

Madison needs a ready list of suppliers to bring their homegrown goodness to meet the growing demand from local residents.

At the meeting next week, producers and vendors will help determine what will work for the times for the market, the day of the week and hours of operation. Produce could come from gardeners who want to sell the abundance from their backyard plots or those who farm for a living and are looking to sell close to home.

“The market would act as a catalyst to promote the growth and development in our Depot District,” McCrory said. “This would bring people downtown, make it a place to gather.”

That’s what Clinton’s Olde Towne Market did for the city’s historical district, said Main Street Clinton manager Tara Lytal, who spearheaded creation of that market seven years ago.

Hundreds flock to the markets that feature fresh produce and made-in-Mississippi products held every other Saturday, late spring through early fall. They also feature local entertainers such as guitarist and vocalist Ralph Miller.

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